The 23rd Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic

It was 7 days prior to this year’s Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic and the weather forecast was calling for 40mph south winds and heavy rain. After 10 plus years of running the contest, I had gained enough experience to not enter panic mode, yet. There had been several years where the week prior to the event, the forecast was predicting glorious sunshine and fun waves. However, the surf gods would change their minds at the last minute and send us scrambling to deal with the first big storm of the year. So, when this year’s contest director Lisa called asking if I had seen the incoming storm, I crossed my fingers and said, “it’s got time to change, I’ve got a good feeling about it”. 

I don’t know why I said it. Maybe it was the years of seeing it switch from good too bad at the last minute, and thought it was time it worked in our favor. Or it could be the confidence I had that most of the contestants didn’t care what the conditions were either way. Each year they would suit up, put on a smile, and paddle out into whatever the ocean gave us. Many of them have been competing in the contest for years, some have even been here for all previous 22 events. As surfers in Oregon, we paddle out in far more bad days than good ones, and they weren’t about to pass up a chance to participate again. As our good friend John Newman told me days before we tragically lost him in a car accident, “the contest is my favorite weekend of the year, it means so much to me and my family, thank you for continuing to put it on”. The contest was going to happen, and I think John had something to do with making it the best one yet! 

Each day we got closer to the event the forecast would improve. What was predicted as the opening of the winter storm season, now called for an extension of summer. Warm weather and plenty of sunshine greeted this year’s participants for Friday night’s registration party. The band Ground Swell, fronted by longtime NW surfer Pat King, started the evening off right by playing a mixture of classic surf tunes and singalongs like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Drinks were being served up from The Pelican Brewery and Juneshine Hard Kombucha, while burritos from Ben & Jeff’s kept people from getting hungry. As the sun began to set, everyone gathered on the beach for a traditional paddle-out in honor of John. It was also to pay our respects to two other long time contest participants and pillars of our surf community, Ben Cockcroft from Seaside and Gary Gregg of Pacific City. Both we lost in the last two years when we couldn’t run the contest and properly say our goodbyes. It was a beautiful evening filled with love and warmth for our friends and their families.

This was the first year of running equal age divisions for both the Men and Women. To make sure we could get all the increased opening rounds completed on Saturday, we began the contest at 7:30am and ran straight through till 6:30pm. A huge thank you to the judges, contest beach crew, and announcers for putting in such a long day! We couldn’t do this without you. People ask me each year why we start the contest with the 40 to 49 year old division. I was taught from the previous organizers that this is the age group who would less likely be hung over from the night before and had the best chance of making it to their heat on time! This has been sound advice over the years and once again the contest got started on time. Clear skies and fun waves greeted us first thing and held on for most of the day. The marine layer moved in later that afternoon and dropped the temperature down a bit, but not everyone’s spirits. Fantastic surfing was being served up all day, with standout performances by Zack Howard in the men’s division and Jeannine Mackie for the women. The day wrapped up with everyone’s favorite category, Kid with Parent Division. Seeing the stoke on the youngest competitor’s faces as they get pushed into some amazing waves, is pure joy. A twist to this year’s event was pulled off beautifully by the Animal Chin family. What do you do when you are a parent and have two kids competing at the same time? You grab the biggest board you can find and all paddle out together! Their first wave was ridden perfectly to the delight of the crowd, and they were awarded “best maneuver” in their category.         

Sunday began much like the day before, with beautiful weather and calm winds. As if John, Ben, and Gary had a hand in it, the swell bumped up slightly and offered near perfect conditions for the semi-finals and finals. With live scoring and the event being live streamed for the first time, everyone watching could stay up to speed with what was happening in the water. The announcers kept everyone engaged all day long and did a fantastic job of building the tension as the final heats were run. Standout performances on this day were David Schiaffino for the men and Kelly Aldinger for the women. 

The final heat of the day, men’s 18 to 29 division, summarized perfectly what this event is truly about. Yes, some of the best surfing happened in this division, but that’s not it. From the time this contest first started roughly 25 years ago, it has always been about the coming together of family. Our surf community is a family. We look after each other in and out of the water. So, when Christian Anderson was paddling out for the final heat and his board randomly snapped in the whitewater, what happened next? Taylor Brooks, who was STILL competing in her final heat on a board she borrowed from her boyfriend’s father, handed Christian her board to use rather than paddling back out. What makes this even more special, is that she is the girlfriend of Christian’s competitor Deklyn Wood, whose father Dayl is a longtime competitor and staple in the NW surf community. The two men along with everyone else in their heat, would battle it out till the last few seconds, trading waves while everyone on the beach cheered and routed them on. In the end, Deklyn would narrowly claim the victory, but it was the positive gesture by fellow competitors that made it so special. In a time when it seems hard to hear good news, this show of sportsmanship capped off a weekend full of it. 

To John, Ben, and Gary, thank you for leading the way and setting the foundation for this wonderful event. To all the competitors, volunteers, sponsors and spectators, thank you for making it all happen and being so special. Because of your commitment and efforts, we raised more money than ever before. Phase 2 of the Pacific City Skatepark will be starting soon because of you!

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